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Russian Christian Leader Expresses Concern over the Plight of Christians in Africa and the Middle EastWednesday, May 22nd, 2013
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that seven expatriate Christians who were abducted in February by an Islamic militia group in Libya have been released and are now safe in their respective countries. The last Christian from the group landed in Cairo International Airport on Tuesday night.
The recent death of an Egyptian Evangelical Christian under dubious circumstances, along with increasing arrests and detention of Christians, confirms the rising threat of Islamist extremism and Christian persecution in Libya.
What is happening in Libya? Four Christian foreigners, including a South African, South Korean, Egyptian, and a Swede with a US passport, were arrested in Benghazi on February 10. Three days later, two more Christians from Egypt were arrested, one of whom, identified as Sherif Ramses, was reportedly tortured. Yet, that was only the tip of the iceberg. On February 27, at least 48 Christians from Egypt were arrested, one of whom died while in custody from possible torture. On top of that, a Coptic Church in Benghazi was attacked and two priests were assaulted by militants in early March. The country’s sudden persecution of Christians has led some to question whether the ‘new’ Libya has truly been liberated from the former tyranny of Muammar Gaddafi’s oppressive regime, or if one tyranny has simply been replaced by another, this time led by radical Islamists.
Four more Egyptian Christians were arrested in Libya last Friday, less than a month after the arrests of more than 50 Egyptian Christians in late February for allegedly proselytizing and distributing Christian literature. One of the Christians died while in prison. Though government officials say the Christian’s death was a result of natural causes, the Egyptian Christian community claims he was murdered after being tortured by militiamen. Though most of the Christians have since been released, an Egyptian, a South African, a South Korean and a Swede with a US passport who were arrested in mid-February remain in prison, along with the four Egyptian Christians that were arrested last week.
“In a troubling development, Egyptian Copts in Libya say one of their number has been killed by a militia while detained along with dozens of other Copts. Copts accuse Libyan militias, with the tacit approval of the government, of harassing, arresting, torturing, and now killing Christians,” Catholic Online reports. At least eight Christians remain behind bars in Libya, including an Egyptian, a South African, a South Korean and a Swede with a US passport who were arrested in mid-February, and four Egyptians that were arrested last week.
Libya suspended work at its embassy in Cairo on Saturday following protests over the death of an Egyptian Christian in a Libyan prison last week. Though government officials say the Christian died of natural causes, the Egyptian Christian community claims he was murdered as a result of being tortured during his detainment. The Christian and more than 50 others were arrested in February for allegedly distributing Christian materials and proselytizing. According to the Maspero Youth Union (MYU), there were four more Egyptian Christians arrested in Libya on Friday.
Militants torched a church used by Egyptian Christians in Benghazi, Libya on Thursday, a week after scores of Egyptian Christians were detained for alleged proselytization, the Associated Press reports. Although most of the Christians have since been released, at least four—including a Swedish-American, a South Korean, a South African and an Egyptian—remain behind bars.
The funeral of Ezzat Atallah, a Coptic Christian, was held Wednesday following his death in a Libyan prison, the Associated Press reports. While the Egyptian Foreign Ministry claimed that Atallah died from poor health due to diabetes and heart ailments, protestors suspect that poor prison conditions and possible torture contributed to his death. Atallah was one of more than 50 Christians arrested in February for allegedly distributing Christian materials and proselytizing. At least four foreign Christians, including a Swedish-American, a South Korean, a South African and an Egyptian remain in prison.
With the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, anti-Christian violence is quickly rising under the influence of Islamist extremism, thus raising concerns about the future of religious freedom in the country.
Yesterday, ICC posted a news article concerning the death of Ezzat Atallah, one of the more than 50 Egyptian Christians arrested in Libya last month, who died in prison reportedly due to health problems. Naguib Guebrayel, a Coptic Christian lawyer, said that Atallah death was not because of his poor health, but a result of "being tortured with other detainees", RT.com reports. Atallah was one of five Evangelical Christians arrested for allegedly proselytizing and distributing Christian literature. Although most of the Christians have since been released, an Egyptian, a South African, a South Korean and a Swede with a US passport who were arrested in mid-February remain in prison, according to reports.
Ezzat Atallah, one of the more than 50 Egyptian Christians that were arrested in Libya last month, died while in prison likely due to health problems, the Associated Press reports. The Christians were detained for allegedly proselytizing and distributing Christian literature. Thirty-five of the Christians were deported back to Egypt last week for illegally entering the country, while 20 were cleared to stay in Libya. ICC has yet to confirm the reasons for Atallah’s death, but there is concern that it may have been a result of harsh treatment while in prison, as many of the Christians were reportedly tortured by Libyan officials. Atallah was one of five Evangelical Christians arrested in the crackdown.
“What is going on in Libya?” Middle East analyst Raymond Ibrahim asks in reference to the rising persecution of Christians in the country. Four Christian foreigners were arrested in Benghazi on February 10. Three days later, two more Christians from Egypt were arrested, one of whom, identified as Sherif Ramses, was reportedly tortured. Three days after that, a seventh Christian, also from Egypt, was arrested. Then, on February 27, at least 48 Christians were arrested (with some reports placing the number at closer to 100), and some were reportedly tortured. Days later, a Coptic Church was attacked in Benghazi and two priests were assaulted. “It is becoming clear that these arrests are increasingly less about actual Christian evangelism to Muslims, and more about Muslim hostility to Christians,” Ibrahim writes.
Islamists attacked an Egyptian church in Benghazi, Libya and assaulted two priests days after the arrest of dozens of Egyptian Christians suspected of proselytizing “Since the 2011 revolution that ousted the late dictator Moamer Kadhafi, Libya’s small Christian minority has expressed fears over Islamic extremism, especially with the rise of armed militias enforcing their own law in the absence of central control,” Agence France-Presse reports. Moreover, Libya’s Islamists are growing bolder with every new accusation against a Christian or other minority for proselytizing or being involved in some other type of ‘illegal’ religious activity. Sadly, the arrests of Christians and attacks on the Christian community are bound to escalate as a result.
“Libyan Islamists detained 48 Egyptian Christians in Benghazi last week, torturing them and using acid to burn off tattoos of the cross,” family members told Fox News. The Christians were accused of proselytizing and distributing Christian literature. Photographs and a video circulated online showing the Christians locked in a small room and guarded by bearded Salafists. Some of the Christians appeared to be cut and bruised. The arrests began when an Egyptian, a South African, a South Korean and a Swede with a U.S. passport were arrested in mid-February. No one has been released to date, despite there being no known charges against them, and the situation is growing worse. ICC will continue to keep you updated as the story unfolds. Please remember these Christians in prayer.
Dozens of more Egyptian Christians were arrested Wednesday in Libya on charges of proselytizing, MidEast Christian News reports. The detainment follows the arrests of seven Christian foreigners in mid-February who are currently being held in Benghazi. According to MidEast News, the arrests were reported by the Facebook page "Yes to Secularism in Libya," where a video was uploaded showing a group of Coptic Christians crowded into a room, after having their heads shaved by authorities. ICC has yet to be able to confirm this information.
With Libya’s ‘liberation’, which has brought some positive changes in the country, is also the threat of rising Islamic extremism. In Libya, Egypt, and several Middle Eastern countries, Islamists have gained significant political influence, and sentences against proselytizing, blasphemy, and apostasy are being enforced to an extent never seen under former dictatorships. The Islamist agenda is clear: to establish an Islamic state based on the principles of Sharia law. The ramifications of that agenda in Libya are perhaps clearer now than ever before with the arrest of seven Christian foreigners this month. In this article, Raymond Ibrahim looks at the history of Islam in Libya, questions the Obama administration’s approach in developing a ‘new’ Libya, and fears for the future of Christianity and religious freedoms in the country.
Seven Christian foreigners have been arrested in Libya in recent weeks for allegedly proselytizing and distributing Christian literature. According to Morning Star News, one of the Christians, Sherif Ramses from Egypt, has been tortured while being held in Benghazi. The Christians include a South African, Swedish-American, and several Egyptians. The Christians have yet to be officially charged.
Three Egyptian Christians were arrested in Libya in mid-February, raising the total number of Christians behind bars in the country to seven, Morning Star News reports. The crackdown began when four Christian foreigners, including a Swedish-American, were arrested on Feb. 10 following accusations of proselytizing and distributing Christian literature. Charges against the three Egyptians remain unknown. The Christians are currently being held in Benghazi and are undergoing interrogation.
After the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, Libya’s small Christian community fears for its safety, Agence France-Presse reports. Recently, Catholic nuns have decided to leave their communities following threats from Islamists and four Christian foreigners were arrested in Benghazi on charges of proselytizing. In December, a church bombing killed two people in the Mediterranean town of Dafniya. And, “Not a day goes by without tombs being vandalized,” said Dalmasso Bruno, caretaker of an Italian cemetery where Christians are buried. According to Father Dominique Rezeau, there were as many as 100,000 Christians in Libya before the 2011 revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi. “Now only a few thousand remain.”
Escalating pressure on Christians in Libya is driving some of the faithful from their communities. Catholic nuns in three communities are leaving the country because of threats by radical Islamists, Voice of America reports. And, even more concerning, four foreign Christians were arrested in Benghazi last week on charges of proselytizing and printing Christian literature. According to Father Dominique Rezeau, there were as many as 100,000 Christians in Libya before the 2011 revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi. “Now only a few thousand remain.”
Yesterday, ICC reported that four Christian foreigners were arrested in Benghazi, Libya, for allegedly taking part in evangelistic activities. Police spokesman Hussein bin Hamid said the foreigners are from South Africa, Egypt and South Korea, and one holds both Swedish and U.S. nationality, according to Fox News. Police also reportedly found 45,000 books in their possession and another 25,000 that had already been distributed. The Christians are currently detained and undergoing interrogation. ICC will continue to bring you the latest updates on the story.
Four foreigners were arrested in Benghazi, Libya, last week for allegedly taking part in Christian activities, mainly proselytizing, the Daily Times in Pakistan reports. “Proselytising is forbidden in Libya,” said security official Hussein Bin Hmeid. “We are a 100 percent Muslim country and this kind of action affects our national security.”
According to the former Nigeria's president, Obasanjo, Nigeria's radical Islamic group, Boko Haram, has been able to get arms from Libya following the fall of Ghaddafi. We call upon Nigeria to stop flow of arms to Boko Haram and protect Christians and other targets from attacks by radical Muslims.
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